'I suppose we'd better let the Cabinet know what's going on,' said Duff. He wasn't thinking clearly. They knew nothing of the VastTel situation. As far as they were concerned, the phone company was simply incompetent through its own doing, and the huge amounts of money the government paid to it was nothing more than a badly negotiated phone contract.
He yearned for the simple days, when he would send the police for pitched battles with striking workers at the dockyards.
'Perhaps now is the time to let them in on it,' suggested Duff.
'Sure,' said Holton-Lacey, 'if you want to commit political suicide.'
He didn't want to do that, of course. He needed to hang on until his retirement. Just the week before, he had looked at job advertisements out of curiosity, to see if there was anything he would be suitable for. It was an enormous reality check. He was prime minister for one reason only: he was incapable of doing anything else. But now, with the nation on the verge of a communications collapse, he wondered whether he could keep his job. What would become of him? He had little choice but to trust Holton-Lacey to do the right thing.
'Dammit,' said Duff, frustrated by the situation and stamping his hand on the table. He felt a sharp pain up his arm as he did it. 'Jones is responsible for all this. However did we let that happen?'
'I don't know, prime minister. But he is being replaced. At least in the interim. Until the Redundancy Program kicks in, and we can close the whole place down.'
'Can you find someone as incompetent as Buffet was?'
'I think so. We recruited someone just yesterday.'
'Well, I hope we got the right man this time.'
Duff stared at his empty coffee cup for a long while, deep in thought. Well, reasonably deep, at least for him. He was considering how complicated it was all getting: redundancy programs; a new phone company; and Holton-Lacey had spoken about the need to draft complicated new legislation to facilitate this new business that would somehow have to get through parliament. He yearned for the simple days, when he would send the police in for pitched battles with striking workers at the dockyards. Why did telecommunications have to be so complicated? Couldn't they have picked another industry in which to dump all these incompetent people? Would anyone notice if there were a thousand times as many life coaches, for example?
Duff was so lost in thought it was a while before he spoke again.
'So, where is this Jones character now?' he asked eventually.
'We've put him somewhere out of the way,' explained Holton-Lacey.
'Why don't we just sack him?'
That's why Duff should've read documents — just in case one of them advocated genocide...
'I'm afraid he might know too much. We don't want him out in the community talking to people.'
'So how are you going to stop that happening?'
'That's easy. We've put him in the only part of the business where there's no chance of him talking to anyone.'
'Really? Where's that?'
'We've put him in the call centre.'
Holton-Lacey was very pleased with his plan. No one in the call centre ever spoke to people outside the organisation. Their phone system's menu had been carefully designed to make sure that never happened. And Holton-Lacey's Redundancy Program would ensure that soon Jones, and everyone else at VastTel, wouldn't be around to talk to anyone ever again.
That's why Duff really should have read documents. Just in case one of them advocated genocide.
The Incumbent is Phil Dobbie's first novel and these excerpts have been used with his permission. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. To purchase the entire novel in digital format, click here. It is also available in printed format ... for more details click here.